It seems all ministers live life in the middle of a teeter-totter. We are constantly trying to find balance in so many areas of our life:
Between church needs and family needs.
Between pride in our successes and giving God proper credit.
Between being available to people and being alone with God.
Between study time and devotional time (and yes, there is a huge difference).
Between working productively and resting responsibly.
It seems everything we do is an attempt to keep from leaning toward one side or the other. There is one area in particular that I struggle with, and that is striking a balance between theologian and shepherd. I love knowledge. I love to read, study, and debate as well as challenge myself by reading and studying what opponents to Christianity have to say. I love exploring theological conundrums and trying to explain passages of scripture that have been debated back in forth in millennia old table-tennis grudge matches. I also love the preaching and teaching aspect of my job. I thrive on going through a book of the Bible, verse-by-verse, with a group of people who are eager to dig deeper into the text and learn what God is teaching them through His Word. Needless to say, I tend to tip toward the Theologian side of the scale.
It’s the Shepherd side I struggle with. I am not naturally a ‘nurturing’ person. It is something I have worked on for years to try to develop, and God has used my children on more than one occasion to humble me enough to learn. I also don’t score very high in the compassion department. It’s not that I don’t care… it’s that I don’t always notice. This is where God has blessed me with an observant wife who notices people in need and points me towards them. But my lack of compassion sometimes leads to frustration in areas of counseling. My first impulse in counseling is to ask what someone has done wrong and then instruct them to stop! In addition to all these issues, my mercy meter usually reads on low. I have had to develop an attitude of grace and forgiveness, because like many a Pharisee (and remember, the Pharisees were strong theologians) I am quick to point the finger and quicker to pull the trigger.
In all this I have noticed something, however. I have met many a minister who is strong as a theologian, and I have met just as many who are strong shepherds. Yet I have rarely met one that is gifted in both. But God is rich in mercy and He has a place for theologically-challenged shepherds and sheep-fearing theologians. I am confident in this; God is working to develop within me the set of skills I will need to carry out His will for my life. Knowing this I say, ‘Bring on the sheep!’